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BIOL 230W: Biology: Molecules & Cells

How to Read & Use Primary Scientific Articles

Primary scientific articles can be difficult to read and understand.  As burgeoning scholars it is vital that you develop reading strategies early on to help you use scientific literature. Click on the links below to learn the common structure of scientific articles and how to navigate them for efficiency and comprehension.

Take a dictionary with you! 

When you are just getting started in a discipline, one of the most difficult things about reading the literature is understanding the language.  Using scientific dictionaries and encyclopedias to look up unfamiliar terms can be hugely helpful. 

Use the resources below to assist you as you read:

Suggested Reading Strategy

  1. Abstract
  2. Discussion
  3. Introduction
  4. Results
  5. Methods

Remember that reading scientific literature is not easy, even for experts.  Having a strategy, along with making sure to look up concepts and terms you don't understand, can be hugely helpful.  The above strategy is recommended but developing your own based on your knowledge about what each section contains and what you need to know is key!